Who can claim copyright?

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Updated: 4/13/2007 3:36 pm
In general, whoever creates a work owns the copyright to it, but there are exceptions. In order to qualify for copyright protection, something has to exist in a physical form, whether it's a printed piece or on another medium like film or a computer disk. A speech that wasn't transcribed can't be copyrighted. If a work is created for somebody else, the copyright goes to whoever paid for the work. An artist who's commissioned to paint a portrait doesn't own the final product. Whoever paid the artist owns both the portrait and its copyright. A software company owns the programs that are written by its programmers. Newspapers own the copyrights on their articles unless other arrangements are worked out with the writer in advance. The idea of 'creation' is fairly vague in copyright law. Two poets who independently write identical poems are both entitled to copyright protection, although such coincidences are obviously rare. Copyrights are automatically granted as soon as a work is completed, even though it only exists on paper or a computer disk. If you feel that your work has been used without authorization, you'll have to register the original piece with the Copyright Office, proving the date of creation, before you can take legal action.

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